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July 20, 2009

Visits During Series vs. One-Off Posts

Repeat Viewers, and I know you're out there, will recognize that I've changed a few things recently.

The biggest change is that I've alternated between one-off, standalone posts to writing a series of consecutive posts on a topic. I thought it would be interesting to compare site visits when a consecutive series is running, vs. site visits with eclectic (inchoate, unthemed, dissonant) posts.

I'd like to say it's something I invented, but I have to credit the NY Daily News and the New York Times, the papers I grew up with. They'd run multi-day series on topics that could sustain and justify the concentration.

The image below shows site visits and page counts for the last month. What's the difference between visits and page counts? You come to the blog, look at one page and leave; that's one visit, one page count. You come to the blog, look at three pages and leave; one visit, three page counts. I've been averaging about 1.4 page counts per visit. (You can find a mind-numbing array of these snigglets by clicking on the counter image along the left margin, the box that says SiteMeter. I've left it public.)

Blue brackets identify days when I had a series going. You can see where I was posting Series One and Series Two. Series One is a narrow topic, but I have a specific expertise in it, and it drew (an almost unwelcome) national attention. I've been averaging about 100 visits a day.

My blog, in general, gets excellent Google love. For instance, the list below shows terms that I've recently blogged about, and the blog's Google ranking for those queries.
PG-20RP #1
heirs of alfonsina strada #1
integrated tour de france #1
nextgen atc new york #1
operational critique #1
rhetoric overton window #1
sexism tour de france #1

racism tour de france #2
nextgen atc delay #3
no women tour de france #3

racist tour de france #5
university of pittsburgh G-20 #5
anarchist imagery #5
pro women cyclists #6
nextgen atc #6

It seems like there's a two-day time latency between blogging something and accomplishing pervasive Google recognition of the entry. I don't do anything like telling Google the page is there, and I haven't used the Google XML sitemap to prioritize my updates (although I probably should).

Looking at my site statistics, the ability of a stand-along topic to generate hits from Google seems to be based on the shelf-life of the topic. For instance, H1N1, Tour De France: these topics are going to stay in the public's eye long enough for Google to have indexed my blog entries while people are still Google-querying those terms.

In the alternative, a one-off blog post on a topic with a short shelf life, those blog entries never generate a lot of visitors. By the time (2 days) that it takes Google to index the post across most of their data centers, the audience's interest in the topic has moved on.

I should say that I'm not a Google-whore. I'm not, really. There's lots of ways to go grey-hat and black-hat, and I'm not interested in spending time that way. I blog about the things that interest me, or on topics where I flatter myself that I've got something to say.

It's just that if you give my inner geek real-time statistics on blog visits, then my various brain hemispheres start collaborating and inevitably I'm running experiments with the topics I'd be blogging about anyway.

My finding is: the series seem to generate more total visits. Paradoxically, marginal page views drop during the series; they read the one page, and then move on. This means either (1) my series really stink, and/or (2) I'm not effectively signalling the fact that there's previous/subsequent posts on that topic.

Hoping that it's (2), a poor and non-intuitive nav structure, I've just added "next story" links to Series Two, now I'll have to leave it alone and see what develops.

If anybody's got any feedback for me on the blog, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, and thanks for reading, Vannevar.


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